What has happened to my memory?

As we age, our memory goes the way of the rest of the body - it disintegrates. Someone will ask a question and - knowing that I know the answer - I will begin to respond.

For some reason, the answer gets stuck between my long-term memory and my vocal cords. It sits there, unable to come out, But, perhaps four hours later, like a bolt out of the blue, the answer will pop into my head.

Aha! I didn't lose my memory - it's just tardy!

The funny thing is - I can still recite most of the Gettysburg Address that I had to learn in 8th grade. Why do I still know that while I can't recall what I had for dinner last night?

I think it has something to do with the power of memorization. I can still sing along with all the 1940's songs our mother sang to us. I can still recite prayers that I learned as a child. And, believe it or not, I can still recite the poem "In Flanders Field" that I memorized for a Memorial Day ceremony when I was in elementary school.

Children should be taught to memorize. It is a skill that will benefit you for your entire lifetime. Whether they learn poems, songs, or famous speeches, it is critical that children be asked to memorize at least one item per month.

If the school doesn't require it, then the parents should. Have a "Family Recitation Night," by turning off the TV and having each member of the family recite something.

Mt first grade teacher Louisa Cresci Freed (who was also my cousin) required us to memorize something each week. We had to stand up beside our desk and clearly recite the chosen piece. She gave us all the same piece to memorize, so if you were first to be called on, you had a harder task. The last kid in the class had a distinct advantage - he had heard the piece being recited twenty-five times!

There is a game that you can play with your children. This game is called "The Memory Tray" and it will help your child develop their remembering skills.

Take a tray and place ten or twelve small items on it (toothpick, fork, rubber band, pencil, can opener, etc.). Ask the child to stare at the tray for 2 minutes. Then, take the tray away. Wait two more minutes in silence. Then, ask the child to tell you the items that were on the tray. Count the number of correct answers.

Repeating this game a few times a week with different items on the tray will assist your child in developing attention to detail and aid in memory.

You can buy a game called "Memory" that has matching cards. Take a series of paired cards and turn them upside down on the table. Each player takes two cards and turns them over, seeking a match. If there is no match, the cards are turned back over in the same spots. When a pair is found, the player keeps that pair.

The game is over when all the pairs have been found. This game requires a player to remember where the cards are located on the table. And, if you don't feel like spending money for a store-bought game, you can use a regular deck of cards and just pair the red or black suit together.

One of the first things a child should memorize is his address. Follow this with the phone number and parents' workplace. It also helps to have your child memorize another caregiver's phone number - just in case.

Experts may tell you that poor memory is a sign of brain deterioration. That may well be so, but poor memory can also be the result of not using your brain often enough. Find ways for you and your family to keep your brains sharp.

If you would like to contact Dr. Smith, you can reach her by e mail at jsmith1313@cfl.rr.com [1] or in care of this newspaper.